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Pakistan Refuses To Ban Child Marriage

Photo: Ilyas J Dean/REX Shutterstock.
A bill intended to ban child marriage in Pakistan fell apart after a prominent religious group spoke against it, The Washington Post reports.

The bill proposed raising the legal age for girls to marry from 16 to 18, as well as imposing harsher penalties for those who arranged marriages for underage children. However, the proposal was defeated by the Council of Islamic Ideology, a religious committee that advises the Pakistani Parliament on compatibility with religious law.

The Council called the bill “anti-Islamic” and “blasphemous,” according to Agence France-Presse. A source told the news organization that the council claimed there is no age limit for marriage under religious law, and an individual can marry when he or she reaches puberty. While the Council’s recommendations are non-binding, they do carry weight with lawmakers.

Girls Not Brides estimates that 21% of girls in Pakistan are married before the age of 18. Worldwide, more than 700 million women were married before they turn 18, and more than one-third before the age of 15. Some child brides are as young as 8 or 9. One young girl photographed by the photo series Too Young To Wed, published by Refinery29, was only 5.

Some child brides — like Sonali Khatun, who fought to get divorced at 14 — have happier endings, but they are still in the minority. For many young girls, being married as children means the end of any hope for a good life.